Royals-White Sox preview

(AP) — After a successful stretch without their captain, the Chicago White Sox are hoping to get Paul Konerko back in the lineup to start the weekend, although he hasn’t been much help against the Kansas City Royals this year.

Konerko and the White Sox will look to start playing better against the Royals, who host a three-game AL Central series beginning Friday night.

Chicago hit five home runs, including a three-run shot by Alex Rios in the eighth, for a 7-2 win over Toronto on Thursday, taking three of four games from the Blue Jays. The White Sox have hit 28 homers in their last 13 games.

“Given the time of year and the situation we’re in where every game means so much, to come in here and win three out of four is huge,” catcher A.J. Pierzynski said.

Central-leading Chicago (65-52) improved to 5-3 without Konerko, who was placed on the 7-day concussion list last Friday after being elbowed in the head Aug. 7 by Kansas City’s Jarrod Dyson on a play at first base.

White Sox manager Robin Ventura was optimistic Konerko could return Friday as the designated hitter.

“I would say he is probably going to come out early, do some stuff, and we’ll go from there,” Ventura said. “But everything leading up to it looks fine. It looks like he is going to be able to play.”

However, Konerko is batting .161 with one homer and two RBIs in eight games against the Royals this season as the White Sox have gone 4-5 versus the fourth-place club in their own division.

Kansas City won two of three in Chicago last week, although the White Sox did take two of three at Kauffman Stadium in July.

Chicago is averaging 3.0 runs and hitting .236 against the Royals this year. Besides Konerko’s struggles, Alexei Ramirez is hitting .125 (4 for 32) against them while Kevin Youkilis is 2 for 20.

Youkilis enters the weekend one hit shy of 1,000 in his career while Adam Dunn remains stuck on 399 career homers after going 0 for 2 on Thursday.

The White Sox will go for their fourth straight win Friday when they hand the ball to Chris Sale (14-3, 2.60 ERA), who is also riding a personal three-game winning streak.

Sale struck out 11 and gave up two runs on a pair of homers over 6 2-3 innings of a 7-3 victory over Oakland on Sunday. The left-hander is 2-1 with a 2.57 ERA in three starts against the Royals this year, winning the last two.

Kansas City second baseman Chris Getz is 6 for 11 against Sale, while designated hitter Billy Butler is 5 for 14 with two homers.

Kansas City (51-66) failed to complete a three-game sweep of the Athletics this week, dropping the finale 3-0 on Thursday.

Probable Royals starter Luis Mendoza (6-8, 4.37) will oppose Sale for the third time this season. He was on the losing end of both of Sale’s victories over Kansas City, yielding a total of six runs over 14 2-3 innings.

Mendoza also earned a win over the White Sox in May with 5 2-3 innings of one-run relief.

Mendoza is looking to win back-to-back starts for the first time in 2012. The right-hander allowed three runs in six innings of a 7-3 victory over Baltimore on Saturday.